Machine and Process Management

Smart Operations require flexible material handling solutions

Smart Operations require flexible material handling solutions

Today’s customers expect flexible customization

Customers want flexible customized products to exactly meet their needs, and these rapidly changing market demands can’t be met with yesterday’s “fixed” manufacturing systems.

Henry Ford’s famous saying, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black,” is an example of fixed manufacturing. Although today’s manufacturing systems are more advanced than during Ford’s time, traditional manufacturing is going through another renaissance, with agile and flexible manufacturing leading the way.

Manufacturing flexibility can be described as follows:

  • Machine flexibility – or the ease with which a machine processes various operations
  • Material handling flexibility – the ease that different part types can be transported and properly positioned at the various machines within a system
  • Operation flexibility – how easily alternative operation sequences can be used to process a given part type

We can address machine and operation flexibility with techniques such as robotic operations, CNC machining, flexible batch management, etc. These allow product variances to be accommodated in real-time by selecting and running different part programs. But for truly flexible manufacturing, we need to rethink the old-fashioned fixed dog, fixed speed chain (or belt) conveyor systems commonly used since Henry Ford’s day. In other words, we need to address material handling flexibility.

Enter multi carrier systems

Today there’s a new approach to transporting products through manufacturing processes. Instead of product carriers being tied to a fixed location on a fixed speed conveyor, a multi carrier system propels them independently through the process using a system of linear motors.

The material handling control system is closely linked to the overall process control system, so products can be where they need to be at the right time to match dynamically changing process needs. Carrier speed, distance between carriers, and path through the process etc. can all be varied and controlled in real-time. This approach offers several benefits:

  1. Increased productivity

Product is available at workstations exactly when needed. This could make workstation blocked and starved conditions a thing of the past.

Downtime can be decreased, and productivity increased by:

  • Eliminating micro stops at processing stations by speeding up the transfer of individual product between workstations
  • Decoupling processing stations with a moving buffer rather than the fixed product flow of traditional systems
  • Preventing the slowest processing station from limiting production speed
  1. Faster time to market

These flexible, modular systems make it easier than ever to meet specific manufacturing process requirements. Development is reduced, and new processes are up and running faster.

It’s also easier and faster to adapt to changes in market demands with:

  • Simplified machine development
  • Reduced design effort
  • Multiple uses of tried-and-tested software instead of constructing mechanical
    components
  • Increased process flexibility and faster adaptation to industry and market-specific needs
  1. Less downtime

Changes are done in programming, so there’s less downtime due to production changes.
With traditional systems, implementing product changes like design or customization typically requires downtime, which limits operational productivity.

But the multi carrier approach allows changes to be accomplished in software while also enabling smaller batch sizes. The improvements in agility result in competitive market advantages for industrial companies thanks to faster, more effective product customization.

Benefits of a multi carrier approach:

  • Manual format changes are eliminated
  • Product-specific parameter sets can be called up by software for real-time process flexibility
  • Production and material handling systems can be synchronized in real-time
  1. Smaller footprint

Systems with almost any path configuration are possible. Carriers can operate in a very small area which minimizes footprint and makes it easier to use existing production areas efficiently – without cabling, without drag chains, and with integrated position measurement.

It’s easier to set up parallel processing stations, and it’s sometimes possible to eliminate entire machines, leading to increased output, decreased floor space, and optimized energy and resource consumption.

How the multi carrier approach minimizes footprint:

  • More compact systems are possible with tighter curve radii
  • Number of parallel processing stations can be optimized as stations can be applied according to the speed of each individual process step, and not all process stations have to mimic the slowest process step
  • Grouping, gap corrections and regroupings can be done on the fly and do not require separate space-consuming components like sequences of multiple conveyors of racetracks

Achieve flexible material handling with Lexium™ MC12 multi carrier

Lexium MC12 multi carrier is an innovative transport system for machines and processes. It uses the latest linear motion technologies to move products individually through machines and manufacturing processes. Access to this new design approach, makes machines faster, more flexible and space efficient.

When combined with Schneider Electric PacDrive 3 motion controllers, Lexium MC12 multi carrier is a next generation carrier system based on linear technology.

Lexium MC12 multi carrier offers significant benefits:

  • Less components that are easier to mount, no complex stands, or holders needed
  • More freedom to build the loop in place at the OEM, avoiding the need to order complete mechatronic systems
  • Easier to operate, carriers can be replaced without tools, and the control system is included as part of the system diagnostics for PacDrive 3
  • Options for remote monitoring

Lexium MC12 multi carrier offers industry-leading performance:

  • High peak and continuous propulsion forces
  • Extremely high attraction force between the carriers and tracks, which increases working payload

Lexium MC12 multi carrier can easily be incorporated into complete automation solutions, including logic, motion, robotics, thanks to the proven PacDrive 3 system, which offers one single:

  • Controller for logic, motion, robotics and multi carrier
  • Program for the complete system
  • Engineering tool for the complete machine

To learn more about how you can benefit from the next generation of material handling flexibility with Lexium MC12 multi carrier, see it in action.

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